First Low-Cost Alliance: JetBlue and Aer Lingus


I have been talking (and thinking) about the future of the low-cost market around the world with many friends as well as colleagues from the airline industry for a few years. I’m happy to see one of the ideas I always mentioned in these conversations actually happening.

The equation is very easy to understand. In the beginning there was one, then there were two and by today there are a large number of low-cost carriers. Some of them have a really strong brand, but let’s face it, the average is only known to a certain region -close to their home base(s)-, where they concentrate all their branding and advertising. But you have to get business somehow, so you -as just one of the zillions of low-cost airlines- will eventually be forced to add some extra service to be different from the rest. You will either offer a frequent flier program, or drinks on board, or sandwiches on board, or guaranteed seating or satellite XM radio or TV or something, that differentiates you from the other low-costs. Maybe you team up with another low-cost to offer a wider network, more destinations and connections, one of the things that still keeps the costs of traditional airlines a little bit higher than of the low-costs. Until now low-costs only offered point-to-point flights, or maybe a single connection in their hub from their own flight, to their own flight. But now this is changing!

Aer Lingus Logo  JetBlue logo  

As ATW News reported recently American JetBlue Airways and Aer Lingus from Ireland unveiled details of their strategic partnership late last week, nearly one year after the “alliance” initially was revealed, proving that it will actually happen. The tie-up will take effect 03APR2008 and will feature a booking engine on the website of Aer Lingus (airline code: EI) that will allow customers to purchase tickets on EI flights to the US and onboard JetBlue services from New York JFK in one transaction. EI will have a transfer desk in the arrivals lobby of JFK‘s Terminal 4 where passengers can check in and drop their luggage upon clearing customs. Those flying to Ireland will be able to check their bags through from their initial US departure point when first checking in for a JetBlue flight. “Our partnership with Aer Lingus is a perfect fit with our brand and culture and we are thrilled to extend our network,” JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said. Aer Lingus CEO Dermot Mannion said, “We are proud to be pioneering the model of linking low-fare networks.

It’s interesting to see this latest step in the transformation of Aer Lingus. The story so far: a state-owned, traditional airline, that has a domestic, low-cost rival named Ryanair… The strategy has been laid a few years ago: EI needs to move towards the low-cost model to be able to compete with Ryanair and escape bankruptcy. Well, they kept their long-haul operations as the flag carrier of Ireland but have really transformed to a low-cost airline on short-haul routes. They used to be a member of the oneworld alliance, which they quit just more than a year ago, due to being too “low-cost-ish” and not fitting the requirements of oneworld anymore. But it looks like they still need the help of other airlines’ networks, and having the experience of a global alliance membership for years, they are now starting their own new alliance, which happens to be in the low-cost market. Just look at any of the currently operating alliances, they all have a strong European and a strong US founding member. This alliance follows the same idea, but in a different market. Let’s see how far they will go with this alliance, whether if it will remain a marketing solution only (linking booking engines, issuing tickets in one transaction (with internal accounting between the two members) and allowing through-check-in of passengers and luggage), or if they will soon link up TrueBlue and The Gold Circle Club to allow frequent flier point/mile collection on each other’s flights and will roll out other joint services? Maybe new, smaller members will be revealed later on? We’ll see.

by balint01 

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7 Responses to “First Low-Cost Alliance: JetBlue and Aer Lingus”


  1. 1 achraf February 6, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Dear Balint

    Thank you indeed for these great information .I have been also discussing with some friends the same question .I even thought about code sharing and spaecial prorate agreement and they were all convinced that such thing would never happen .Now the dream comes true and i m sure a lot of companies will be obliged to follow if they want to survive .It started now with ground assistance and i m sure we will soon hear more mutual collaborations .

  2. 2 balint01 February 7, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Yes, Achraf, I agree. It has now begun, and I believe more will follow. Actually when they announced the above partnership, they already mentioned something like: no code-sharing is planned right now. But if they say this, they probably have at least thought about it… :) And allowing a single transaction for the online purchase of such tickets that include Aer Lingus and JetBlue flights already requires some sort of financial accounting/settlement, even if it’s not (yet) based on a prorate agreement… As I said, we’ll see, and we’ll keep everyone posted on this!

  3. 3 balint01 July 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    It seems that I was right 5 months ago, as Southwest and Canadian WestJet has announced a similar partnership:

    ATWNews (09JUL2008): “Southwest Airlines and WestJet agreed yesterday to form a “codeshare partnership” by late 2009 that would link the networks of the two LCCs and allow passengers flying on US domestic-only SWA to connect to Calgary-based WS’s network throughout Canada.”

    And today Southwest announced even more plans for code-sharing in the low-cost industry:

    ATWNews (28JUL2008): “While the deal with WestJet gives Soutwest Airlines extensive access to the Canadian market, “we’re working very hard on a Hawaiian solution and also a Mexican and Caribbean solution,” Kelly (CEO of SWA) told analysts.”

    I wonder when will RyanAir join this club – if ever? :)

  4. 4 balint01 November 17, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Just recently Southwest has teamed up with Mexican Volaris to offer their passengers code-share services to Mexico. This means that Southwest now code-shares with two other Low-cost airlines: WestJet and Volaris.
    You can read the full story at: http://www.atwonline.com/news/story.html?storyID=14661

  5. 5 balint01 April 6, 2009 at 10:31 am

    From ATW Online:
    JetBlue Airways and Aer Lingus said bookings during the first year of their partnership exceeded targets by 50% and that JetBlue was able to connect more than 80 passengers a day from Ireland. The deal allows customers in both the US and Ireland to book a single connecting fare on EI’s website and provides for baggage transfer. It originally involved connections between Dublin and Shannon, New York JFK and 25 JetBlue onward destinations but now includes flights via Boston as well. EI CEO Dermot Mannion said the companies will “continue to grow and develop new opportunities.”


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